Litter clearing and weeding for rulebreakers? Finally, a half-decent idea from Michael Gove

Less impressive is the Education Secretary's suggestion that we should bring back the writing of lines – a wholly un-educational exercise

Share

Schools are microcosms of society. And just as most adults are law abiding so most children and teenagers abide by most school rules most of the time. It’s how societies work.

And it’s the existence of sanctions which makes sure they do. One of the reasons I don’t drive at 80 mph in a 50 mph limit is that I don’t want to pay a fine and get points on my licence. Similarly I don’t buy and sell illegal drugs because I don’t want to go to prison.

That’s why schools need rules and sanctions to make sure that the rules are adhered to. Ideally – and probably – the sanctions won’t need to be applied very often but everyone knows they’re there and that they will operate in the event of unacceptable behaviour or actions. Sanctions are not the same as discipline. They simply – but strongly - underpin it.

So I’m three quarters with Michael Gove on this one. New guidelines for teachers, to be issued this week, actively encourage schools not to be afraid of imposing sanctions and clarify what sorts of punishments schools may use.

Anything which actively helps the community gets my vote. So I’m pleased to see litter clearing, weeding, help to clean dining areas and other such menial tasks on Gove’s list of suggestions. I worked in a boarding school where ‘doing a dirty job’ (such as cleaning a cooker in a boarding house) was a standard punishment and it worked well. The pupil learned that the misdemeanour was unacceptable – and the cooker got cleaned which helped others.

Also advocated in the new guidelines is the forfeit of privileges such as taking part in a non-uniform day and that makes sense too. You could also exclude miscreants from certain school trips (the ones which don’t relate directly to the curriculum) or in-school treats.

From a practical point of view insisting that pupils report to school early or attend same day detentions is likely to be more difficult. However cooperative parents are (and they aren’t always, as any teacher will tell you) huge numbers of school pupils are dependant on once a day school buses. Any school which deliberately makes a pupil miss the bus is likely to have problems with car-less parents or those who are at work and/or unable to make alternative transport arrangements. I suspect Gove and his head-in-the-clouds civil servants simply haven’t spent enough time in 21st century schools to understand just what the logistical problems are. Few children live round the corner and walk to and from school independently as many did in, say, the 1950s and 60s.

And for goodness sake don’t anyone even think of bringing back the writing of lines as Gove advocates. It tells children loudly and clearly that writing is a boring activity and to be avoided – even adults think so which is why they use it as a punishment.  It’s a profoundly un-educational message. For the same reason copying passages out of books such as the Bible or a dictionary, both of which I have seen used as punishments in the distant past, should be an absolute no no too.

Otherwise yes, support teachers and schools in the setting up of sensible, workable, constructive sanctions so that children and teenagers can see exactly where the boundaries are. But we must never forget to aim for schools in which good behaviour and respect for others are so well established that sanctions are rarely needed. Some have achieved that. It should be the norm.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

 

Political satire is funny, but it also causes cynicism and apathy

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links